Arlo’s had a fair few colds in his life, but this is his first proper illness. He’s been very moany and clingy with a temperature of 38 for the past few days so we’ve been taking it easy at home.
Last night he gave me a real shock. He had dinner and a lukewarm bath and we went upstairs to get ready for bed. As soon as I lay him down, he started making choking noises and was in tears. I thought maybe some leftover from dinner was stuck at the back of his throat so I sat him upright and gave him a few whacks on the back. Nothing happened and he continued with the choking noises. Several minutes later he gagged and deposited a whole pukeload of clear thick mucous over my top.
That was what all the fuss must have been about, I thought.
We went back downstairs to clean him up, but the weird noises and screaming started again. He was breathing very strangely. I was on my own in the house with him, and I was starting to get anxious. I called Sam, who was out with friends, and he said I should give NHS direct a call to see what they suggested. Whilst in the phone queue, the whole contents of Arlo’s stomach came back up. He continued being sick for a few minutes and was, naturally, quite distressed by this.
That’s what all the fuss was about then, I thought.
I took him into the bathroom to wipe him down. He wouldn’t stop crying. His breathing then went really sharp and erratic and the funny noises were back, and his face and whole body turned a mottled dark purple and he was shaking. This really scared me and I could see he was in real distress. His eyes became vacant, he was unresponsive and floppy. I thought he was choking. I couldn’t do anything to stop it. I hit ‘end’ on the call to NHS direct and called 999.
By the time the ambulance got to us, his breathing had slowed and he was calmer. He was very limp and his skin was grey with this purpley rash (to nick the doctor’s phrase – it looked a bit like corned beef), but he wasn’t making the choking noises any more. I thought they would check his airways to make sure there was nothing in there, and that would be it. But they took his temperature (which was now 39.5 – I hadn’t even checked it since that morning as he’d seemed like he was getting better) and took us down to paediatrics to get him checked out.
Sam met me there and we had a long couple of hours with a boiling hot, naked, tired baby on a boiling hot ward, trying to catch his wee in a small cup so that it could be tested. The doctors reckoned that his temperature probably shot up really quickly and caused all his sudden symptoms, that he had suffered a febrile convulsion from the rise in temperature, and apparently the purple skin, which had caused my panic, is a symptom of a high temperature.
His temperature came down to 38.5 after some Calpol, they diagnosed him with a throat infection, and we were free to go home. Fortunately for me, I didn’t look too out of place on a late night bus through South London with wee on my jeans (never did manage to get it in the cup) and puke down my top.
They said I did the right thing in calling an ambulance, and that febrile convulsions must always be checked out by a hospital doctor. I used to think that it was a bad thing to dose a child up on Calpol or Nurofen at the first sign of a fever, I thought you should hold out and only give it when really necessary. But now that it could be the all important difference in preventing a high temperature from escalating towards a febrile convulsion.